“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect,
but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Today, the Lord is impressing on me the concept of discipline. Specifically, His faithfulness in discipline. And the hope found in that. It’s a perspective I’m thankful for…because it shifts my attention away from a sense of failure or defeat and focuses it toward my God’s faithful work in me.
A work He will complete.
Because He lovingly, readily draws me in with all my weaknesses, but He does not leave me in that state.
He loves me too much to do so.
The discipline – the strengthening, the work to cast off strongholds and press on through difficulty and temptation – is not fun. It is hard. It can hurt. But, oh, the life that flows from victory. Flooding our souls with fullness of joy in the unshadowed presence of our Lord.
That’s why we throw off all that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, fixing our eyes on Jesus as we run – for the joy set before us in knowing Him, the One who fills all in all (Hebrews 12:1-2; Ephesians 1:23).
We could look at the presence of a struggle, that fight with a sin nature, as failure. Evidence that we are still who we used to be, that no matter what we do, nothing will truly free us from the grasp of sin.
But that is not truth.
Nothing in Scripture affirms that.
Because the Word of our God declares deliverance:
“You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7)
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)
It declares victory:
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with [Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:13-15)
“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)
It declares cleansing:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10a)
“Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” (Zechariah 3:4b)
It declares strength:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10)
“I love you, O LORD, my strength…For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.” (Psalm 18:1,29)
It declares a new nature:
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10)
The struggle is not evidence that we are trapped in a cycle. Even if it is a struggle we have faced before, it does not mean inevitable defeat or an unending battle. No, it’s just evidence that we’re not done yet. God’s work in us is not complete yet. But it will be. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). This battle is part of that completion. This is a necessary step toward His accomplishing our perfection. We are in the middle of His cleansing us from all unrighteousness.
This is a part of that story, and the story is going to end with the magnificent glory of the One “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24).
This is why we count it all joy when we face trials. It means our God is at work! Not light work with minimal effort – He’s doing the hard stuff. He’s all-in here, in our sanctification, conforming us to the image of Christ. Instilling His character within us. Producing steadfastness. Purifying our heart and cleansing us to the deepest part of our soul. Ever-watchful in each moment to ensure we are refined in the fire but not lost to it.
Our God is in a determined pursuit of our joy and our freedom. And He will win the day.
Lord, do Your work within us. Cover us with grace and hold us up in strength as we face the difficult paths. Grow within us that gentle, quiet spirit that so beautifully and readily trusts You. A heart that is not raised too high, but that is surrendered to Your faithful work and Your wisdom. And at the same time, build within us the determination and boldness to stand firm in Your truth, dressed in Your armor and holding fast to Christ. Thank You for the fight, Lord. Thank You for the evidence that You have not given up on us or left us on our own. Thank You for not leaving us as we were or even as we are now. May we see hope here, in the midst of the battle, and rejoice in the faithfulness of our God who is still in this, still faithfully completing Your work and demonstrating Your power to save.
“He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant,
but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet,
so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.”